Page last updated at 11:25 GMT, Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Stem cell cure for attack victim

Russell Turnbull undergoing treatment
Cells from Mr Turnbull's good eye were transplanted into his damaged one

A man partially blinded in an attack on Tyneside has praised scientists who restored his vision using stem cells.

Russell Turnbull, 38, lost the sight in one eye in 1994 when he was squirted with ammonia after intervening in an argument on a bus in Newcastle.

He was left with Limbal Stem Cell Deficiency (LSCD), a painful condition which requires constant treatment.

He said the Newcastle University team which developed the treatment had "transformed his life".

The method involves taking a small amount of stem cells from a patient's good eye, cultivating them in a laboratory, and implanting them into the damaged cornea.

Mr Turnbull, from Consett, County Durham, was treated at Newcastle's Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI).

He said: "I had a lot of anger inside me for a long time after the attack. I lost my job because of it and I had always been a keen jet skier, which I wasn't able to do.

Russell Turnbull said his life was back on track after the pioneering treatment.

"It ruined my life and I went through a really difficult time. But then this treatment came along. I can't thank the staff at the RVI enough.

"This has transformed my life. My eye is almost as good as it was before the accident. I'm working, I can go jet skiing again and I also ride horses. I have my life back thanks to the operation."

He is one of of eight patients who successfully underwent the treatment developed at the North East England Stem Cell Institute (NESCI).

It is hoped that the technique could eventually be rolled out into clinics.

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